Citizens to determine S. Taiwan mayor's fate in June recall vote

Recall petition surpasses 230,000-signature threshold, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu pushes back with lawsuit

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Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu. (CNA photo)

Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Kaohsiung Mayor and former presidential hopeful Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) is facing a grassroots petition calling for a recall vote that cleared its second major hurdle on Tuesday (April 7).

A high voter turnout is expected at polling stations at the end of June, when Kaohsiung residents will determine whether Han will remain the city’s leader. If the recall fails, his term will end in December 2022.

The Kaohsiung Election Commission convened on Tuesday and confirmed 377,662 valid signatures in the second-stage recall petition, surpassing the required threshold of 230,000 signatures by a significant margin. Some 29,218 signatures have been labeled as invalid by the commission, however, for various reasons.

The case has now been passed over to the Central Election Commission (CEC), which will have a final meeting on April 17 to decide whether the recall vote will take place. According to the law, the vote must be held within 60 days after the CEC announces its decision.

Chen Kuan-jung (陳冠榮), a leading figure in the recall movement, said on Tuesday after the election agency’s meeting that nearly one fourth of Kaohsiung citizens had signed the recall petition, which began last summer. He thanked the residents for backing the initiative and pledged to organize a voluntary medical group to carry out preventive measures against the coronavirus (COVID-19) during the vote.

Should the recall be passed, ballots cast in favor of removing Han must not only outnumber those opposed but also exceed 25 percent of eligible voters in the city, or roughly 580,000 votes. Neither Han nor the Kuomintang (KMT) party to which he belongs has commented on the issue.

Since his bruising loss to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in January’s presidential election, the mayor has largely kept a low profile. However, he has refused to go down without a fight.

Han had his top aide Anne Wang (王淺秋) and lawyer Yeh Ching-yuan (葉慶元) file a lawsuit at the Taipei High Administrative Court on Wednesday morning (April 8), requesting that the court halt the recall case. Wang told the media that the recall petition had begun before Han had occupied the mayoral office for one year, which her team considers a violation of the law governing elections and recall cases.

Civil groups, however, have argued that the law does not regulate the start of recall actions in the first stage. They submitted the petition signatures on December 26, 2019, one day after Han had passed the one-year mark of his mandate, and the case was accepted by the CEC.

The recall movement began taking shape last summer after Han announced his bid for the presidency, breaking a promise he had made during his mayoral campaign.